Page images
PDF
EPUB

Spit fire out of a walnut-shell,
Which made the Roman slaves rebel ;
And fire a mine in China, here,
With sympathetic gunpowder.
He knew whats'ever's to be known,
But much more than he knew would own.
What med'cine 'twas that Paracelsus
Could make a man with, as he tells us ;
What figurd slates are best to make
On wat'ry surface duck or drake;
What bowling-stones, in running race
Upon a board, have swiftest pace;
Whether a pulse beat in the black
List of a dappled louse's back;
If systole or diastole move
Quickest when he 's in wrath, or love ;
When two of them do run a race,
Whether they gallop, trot, or pace;
How many scores a flea will jump,
Of his own length, from head to rump,
Which Socrates and Chærephon
In vain assay'd so long agone ;
Whether his snout a perfect nose is,
And not an elephant's proboscis;
How many diff'rent specieses
Of maggots breed in rotten cheeses ;
And which are next of kin to those
Engendered in a chandler's nose;
Or those not seen, but understood,
That live in vinegar and wood.

A paltry wretch he had, half-starved,
That him in place of Zany served,
Hight Whackum, bred to dash and draw,
Not wine, but more unwholesome law;
To make 'twixt words and lines huge gaps,
Wide as meridians in maps ;
To squander paper, and spare ink,
Or cheat men of their words, some think,

From this by merited degrees He'd to more high advancement rise, To be an under-conjuror, Or journeyman astrologer: His bus'ness was to pump and wheedle, And men with their own keys unriddle; To make them to themselves give answers, For which they pay the necromancers ; To fetch and carry intelligence Of whom, and what, and where, and whence, And all discoveries disperse Among th' whole pack of conjurors ; What cut-purses have left with them, For the right owners to redeem, And what they dare not vent, find out, To gain themselves and th' art repute ; Draw figures, schemes, and horoscopes, Of Newgate, Bridewell, brokers' shops, Of thieves ascendant in the cart, And find out all by rules of art : Which way a serving-man, that 's run With clothes or money away, is gone ; Who pick'd a fob at holding-forth, And where a watch, for half the worth, May be redeem'd; or stolen plate Restored at conscionable rate. Beside all this, he served his master In quality of poetaster, And rhymes appropriate could make To ev'ry month i' th' almanack; When terms begin and end, could tell, With their returns, in doggerel; When the exchequer opes and shuts, And sow-gelder with safety cuts; When men may eat and drink their fill, And when be temp?rate, if they will ; When use and when abstain from vice, Figs, grapes, phlebotomy, and spice.

And as in prisons mean rogues beat
Hemp for the service of the great,
So Whackum beat his dirty brains
T'advance his master's fame and gains,
And, like the devil's oracles,
Put into dogg'rel rhymes his spells,
Which over ev'ry month's blank page
I'th' almanack, strange bilks presage.
His sonnets charm’d th' attentive crowd,
By wide mouth'd mortal troll'd aloud,
That, circled with his long-eared guests,
Like Orpheus look'd among the beasts ;
A carman's horse could not pass by,
But stood tied up to poetry:
No porter's burden pass'd along,
But served for burden to his song:
Each window like a pill’ry appears,
With heads thrust through nail'd by the ears ;
All trades run in as to the sight
Of monsters, or their dear delight,
The gallows-tree, when cutting purse
Breeds bus'ness for heroic verse,
Which none does hear, but would have hung
T' have been the theme of such a song.

Those two together long had liv'd,
In mansion, prudently contrivd,
Where neither tree nor house could bar
The free detection of a star;
And nigh an ancient obelisk
Was raised by him, found out by Fisk,
On which was written, not in words,
But hieroglyphic mute of birds,
Many rare pithy saws, concerning
The worth of astrologic learning :
From top of this there hung a rope,
To which he fasten'd telescope;
The spectacles with which the stars
He reads in smallest characters.

It happened, as a boy one night
Did fly his tassel of a kite,
The strangest long-wing'd hawk that flies,
That, like a bird of Paradise,
Or herald's martlet, has no legs,
Nor hatches young ones, nor lays eggs;
His train was six yards long, milk white,
At th' end of which their hung a light,
Enclosed in lanthorn made of paper,
That far off like a star did appear :
This Sidrophel by chance espied,
And with amazement staring wide :
Bless us, quoth he, what dreadful wonder
Is that appears in heaven yonder ?
A comet, and without a beard !
Or star, that ne'er before appeard !
I 'm certain 'tis not in the scrowl
Of all those beasts, and fish, and fowl,
With which, like Indian plantations,
The learned stock the constellations ;
Nor those that, drawn for signs, have been
To th’ houses where the planets inn.
It must be supernatural,
Unless it be that cannon-ball
That, shot i' the air, point blank upright,
Was borne to that prodigious height,
That, learn'd philosophers maintain,
It ne'er came backwards down again,
But in the airy regions yet
Hangs, like the body o' Mahomet :
For if it be above the shade,
That by the earth's round bulk is made,
"Tis probable it may from far
Appear no bullet, but a star.

This said, he to his engines flew,
Placed near at hand, in open view,
And raised it, till it levell’d right
Against the glow-worm tail of kite ;

Then peeping through, Bless us, quoth he,
It is a planet now I see;
And, if I err not, by his proper
Figure, that's like tobacco-stopper,
It should be Saturn: yes, 'tis clear
'Tis Saturn; but what makes him there?
He's got between the Dragon's tail,
And farther leg behind o'th' Whale;
Pray Heav'n divert the fatal omen,
For 'tis a prodigy not common,
And can no less than the world's end,
Or nature's funeral, portend.
With that, he fell again to pry
Through perspective more wistfully,
When, by mischance, the fatal string,
That kept the tow'ring fowl on wing,
Breaking, down fell the star. Well shot,
Quoth Whackum, who right wisely thought
He'd levellid at a star, and hit it;
But Sidrophel, more subtle-witted,
Cried out, What horrible and fearful
Portent is this, to see a star fall!
It threatens nature, and the doom
Will not be long before it come!
When stars do fall, 'tis plain enough
The day of judgment's not far off;
As lately 'twas revealed to Sedgwick,
And some of us find out by magic :
Then, since the time we have to live
In this world's shorten'd, let us strive
To make our best advantage of it,
And pay our losses with our profit.

VOL. II.

N

« PreviousContinue »